Distance: 2 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 945'
Prominence: 140' (estimated)
Elevation Gain: 567'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.45
Round trip time: 1 hour
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: $3 OC Parks
The Nix Nature Center loop is a path I've beaten to death. An inspection of the area from Google Earth revealed a use trail leading up to the center hill the main trail circumnavigates. I was surprised this had missed my attention and I set out to explore it. A northern and southern use trail are available. I chose the southern approach, which is steeper near the top (the last 100') and easier going up than down. It is steep enough to require using your hands in a few spots, but no real difficulty.
The top of the hill is marked with an Orange County benchmark as "Shady #1", and I added a summit register in red cans which may not last if discovered by the park rangers. The short two mile loop is quick fun, especially if you have worn out the normal 4.7 mile loop. It is also higher than any point on the normal loop trail. There is an unnamed hill across Little Sycamore Canyon to the north that is a little bit higher at 973', accessible from a use trail on Serrano Road.
Update 5/13/2013: I am still the only person in the summit log. I signed and dated it again.
Update 5/19/2013: Still the only person in the log. Followed the ridge use trail over to Serrano Road, then up to the higher unnamed hill north at 973'.
Update 5/27/2013: Still the only person in the log. Scouted around the cliff area on the north side looking for the best way up. Most appear to involve serious bush whacking. There is a narrow chimney in the cliff, but the walls have small rocks protruding so it might not be possible to use standard chimney techniques.
Update 6/2/2013: Got to the top of the cliff by climbing up one side through brush and trees. You can also get there from the trail above the cliff after powering through more brush.
Update 9/23/2013: Checked the log and there were some new entries:
7/7/2013 - Julia Sienski and Bill H.
7/21/2013 - Noel Proffitt
8/25/2013 - Dustin and Paul
The rangers have blocked off use trail on the north side with brush clippings. I was able to walk over it, but this is a clear sign they don't want people going up from that side.
Update 12/24/2013: New entries in the summit register:
10/2/2013 - Mario Rosales, Juan Bautista
10/12/2013 - Howlie(sp?)
10/12/2013 - LB Cingh
10/24/2013 - AJ
Update 6/1/2014: New entries in the summit register:
2/1/2014 - Anthony Limon, Joseph Limon, Nina Rastogi
3/6/2014 - Jacob Lembeer
3/12/2014 - Anton Malinsky, Joe Hamilton, Kyle Stone
3/25/2014 - Stephan, Krishna
3/29/2014 - Jake Glennan, Sherri, Darl, Karol
4/3/2014 - Terry Flood
5/19/2014 - Mikey Sullivan
Update 6/29/2014: New entries in the summit register:
6/4/2014 - Balboa Horizons, Nick C, Kyle U
6/6/2014 - J.Z. (we sweatin' like a mutha), Joey (we can't stop #weonit)
6/29/2014 - Leisa Winston
Update 10/7/2015: Register has been removed
I suspect OC Park personnel may have removed it since there is a new sign by the south use trail discouraging people from using it. This was my 9th and probably final ascent of this hill.